Willow Run school board charges ex-superintendent misappropriated funds, violated contract
Recently demoted Willow Run Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson repeatedly misappropriated local and federal funds during her tenure as the district’s leader, the school board alleges in a 46-page memo approved Thursday night.
“As president of the board, it is my considered opinion that you abused your authority and that your misconduct and dereliction of duty as specified above is nothing short of shameful, reprehensible and inexcusable,” board President Sheri Washington wrote in the document, obtained by AnnArbor.com through a Freedom of Information Act request. “It cannot be tolerated or condoned. It has adversely affected the district and has resulted in such a loss of confidence and trust in you, and respect for you, that you are unfit to continue in employment in this district in any capacity.”
Download the documents
The documents accuse them of "defrauding" the district, but does not contain allegations of Hope-Jackson embezzling funds for personal gain. Neither has been charged with any crimes.Â
It wasn't immediately clear exactly how much money they are alleged to have misappropriated.
Both administrators now face hearings on the charges. If the charges are found to be true, both will have their employment terminated.Â
They have until March 31 to notify the district whether they want the hearings to be open to the public or held in closed session. No date has been set for the hearings.
Both Hope-Jackson and Hicks have been on paid administrative leave since February. Hope-Jackson was reassigned in December from her position as superintendent to the new position of director of information and assessment, following her absence from the district after what she said was a car accident. Hope-Jackson earns about $122,000 in base salary annually.
Hope-Jackson and Hicks didn't attend Thursday’s board meeting, where board members unanimously approved the charges following an hour-long closed session.Â Hope-Jackson and HicksÂ couldn't be reached for comment Thursday night.
Board members referred all comment to Washington.
Washington declined to say whether any local, state or federal investigations were focusing on the situation.
If the charges are found to be true, the district wouldn't have to pay the remainder of Hope-Jackson’s contract, which runs until 2012.
Washington confirmed the district offered Hope-Jackson and Hicks a settlement to end their contracts, but said those offers were declined.
Many of the allegations contained in both administrators’ letters are the same.
They allege the duo “colluded” to get Hicks more than $36,100 in extra pay by: modifying her contract without notifying the school board; allowing her to abuse the sick day system; paying her extra for attending events outside school hours at a rate of $100 an hour, despite being a salaried employee; and other methods.
The documents repeatedly charge both Hope-Jackson and Hicks “defrauded” the district of money.
In addition, the document alleges they spent more than $300,000 of federal Title I money on the Reading and Language Arts Centers Program.
At the same time, Hicks was researching “Teacher Perceptions of Professional Development Related to Multi-sensory training, using the Reading and Language Arts Centers Program.
“You and Dr. Hope-Jackson violated federal funding guidelines by allowing you to use RLAC to subsidize your educational research for your doctorate degree," the letter says. "In addition you misused your administrative assistants, by having them work on your dissertation during the regular workday.
“You have been directed to provide a copy of dissertation and supporting documents but have not done so.”
Hope-Jackson is also accused of giving extra, unauthorized pay to former high school principal Larry Gray and lying about his performance to a district calling to check his references.
Both Hope-Jackson and Hicks are also accused of “unacceptable and improper behavior in your interaction with employees, parents and board members.”
In Hope-Jackson’s case, the accusations say: “You have engaged in unprofessional, contentious, disrespectful, confrontational, accusatory, intimidating, threatening, bullying, mistreating and derisive and abusive behavior toward them. If someone has gotten on your ‘wrong side,’ you have exhibited improper negativity toward them and have been ruthless in your treatment of them, thereby abusing your authority. You have inappropriately used others to do your work.”
Both documents quote numerous current and former employees who accuse the administrators of bullying and related behavior. In Hope-Jackson’s case, two people also accuse her of demoting them because they are white in order to promote a less-qualified black person.
Throughout her three-year tenure at Willow Run, Hope-Jackson has been dogged by controversy. In July, a new school board with a majority of members aligned against Hope-Jackson took control of the district.
That led to Washington being named board president. She and Hope-Jackson have clashed numerous times in e-mails and meetings over the last several years.
David Jesse covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-623-2534.
Sun, Mar 28, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.
People let's do our research BEFORE commenting! In order for a PLANTIF to PROVE SLANDER, they would need to PROVE that the statements used against him/her are FALSE! Otherwise, there is NO LAWSUIT! If you don't want bad things published against you, LIVE RIGHT! The truth is the TRUTH! NO CRIME AGAINST REPORTING THAT! If this were NOT the case, Tiger Woods would also be filing a lawsuit claiming "SLANDER"!
Sun, Mar 28, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.
False,slanderous,degrading,it makes no difference what I know or do not know about what went on at wr.I do know that you do not air your gripes or claims or hersay in the newspaper,unless maybe you just won the powerball and are flush with cash to lose in a big time lawsuit.
Sat, Mar 27, 2010 : 10:15 p.m.
Well, well, well...as an old saying goes what you do in the dark, comes to light! It's just such ASHAME that it took this long for WRCS to admit her wrong-doings! It makes me wonder if her supporters (including staff and board members) were getting perks as well (since they REFUSED to properly handle ANY complaints against her)! Hope- Jackson has a HORRIBLE track record of intimidation, inappropriateness, and illegal behaviors(and it's been this way since DAY 1)! She has been taken to court & EEOC offices on SEVERAL occasions for her misconduct (these incidents ARE REAL/FACTUAL...do the research)! Did the board think that ALL of the staff members and parents were lying about her, prior to this recent action?! KUDOS to Ms. Washington (and a few staff members before her) for finally having enough sense to see through the fog (and enough COURAGE to do WHAT's RIGHT)! As for some of the other Hope-Jackson supporters (especially on the board)... WAKE UP, ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUTH, and put it ALL out there! Afterall, you DON"T want to be implicated in any conspiracies (which will too come out in a matter of time, I PROMISE)!
Sat, Mar 27, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.
@scooter dog, how do you know these are false accusations? I agree that airing any accusations in public is not the way to do things, but the story says annarbor.com got this information by way of FOIA, so perhaps it was not the intent to have these accusations see the light of day - at least, not yet. Seems like someone had to have tipped them off for them to go ahead with the FOIA request. If you are not taking sides, though, how do you justify saying they are false? Personally, I don't know what was going on behind the scenes, but I can say outward appearances were that Hope-Jackson was one of the biggest mistakes Willow Run ever made. Everything I've read in the comments here goes along with what I heard in the past about her. Some people are not really educators, but rather people who hold education hostage for their own personal gain. It appears Hope-Jackson and Hicks are of that ilk. I sincerely hope annarbor.com's actions in reporting this story don't contribute to these people winning any monetary judgement. They've already bilked Willow Run for more than they are worth.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 5 p.m.
I hope they nail all of them!! My son was denied an IEP by Hicks, was called a fat ass by Hope-Jackson. They both sure are UNprofessional people. I think that every child, parent and staff member that has had problems with WR and these people need to file a complaint with the United States Board of Education. They don't play around. They will investigate. Oh maybe that's why these two are were they are at today. I would love to go visit both of them and Mr. Gray in jail and let them be treated the way students, parents and staff have been treated all these years. (Like trash)!! They put their pants on the same way we do every morning but hopefully theirs will be behind bars! We could have gave or children a better education at home then sending them to WR with these people.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.
Where is Drags when you need him? He would have made a great superintendent.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.
I am not taking anyones side,I do happen to know that you do not vent your false accusations against someone in the papers unless you have unlimited resources to pay out a loss to a big time lawsuit for slander and from reading the paper and watching tv you are in no shape for a large legal settelment against you. Like the old saying goes(loose lips sink ships).Good luck
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.
The district needs a major makeover. Willow Run is just a shell of its former self. The system sucked, and my children are in another district that is falling apart. Let go of the job if you are causing the schools more harm than good. If it has all been for the children and for the community, then fight till the truth comes out.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:52 p.m.
Wondering why AnnArbor.com hasn't scanned the school board's memo and linked to it?
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.
Those who are supporting Hope-Jackson are obviously those who are either observing from the outside or were under her protective wing and reaped numerous benefits. You did not know those who were quality and devoted teachers and staff members whose only "wrong doing" was that they disagreed with her and voiced this. She was relentless in her revenge, never having the concern for kids in her actions. The damage of her actions has been unbelievable and only the diligence and wisdom of the current school board can begin to rectify H-J's damage. You don't know if you weren't there and picking up a newspaper is not giving you the whole picture. Keep up the good work, Sherry and other members!
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.
Thank You Sheri Washington. I briefly worked for Willow Run last year, and was appalled at my interactions with Laconda Hicks regarding servicing students, and how she inappropriately used the system to deny services to children. I heard repeated stories of frustration and fear from long time staff members, and since I was not willing to play the game, was ultimately released from my work there. It is music to my ears to hear that she has been caught in a web of her own making. I praise those who came forward and the board of education in Willow Run, for stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. Now hopefully, the children will be allowed the services that are necessary for them to succeed, and the air of fear that educators in WR were forced to endure will end. Sometimes justice does prevail.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.
d obryan - you may be right, but if they really had something solid on her, don't you think this would be over by now? My guess is that they will not only pay her the rest of her contract, but pile up huge legal expenses as well. I'm guessing she knew what she was doing when she refused a settlement. Very sad - we just don't have that kind of money to waste.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.
Doris Jackson needs locked up.she did nothing for this district.i hope they bring criminal charges.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.
The WR school board is really mishandling this. If the lawyers were involved at the right time the memo would not be FOIAable (new word, thank you...). Makes you wonder if they really have enough to seal the deal. Like her or not, Ms. Hope-Jackson is not stupid. Can't wait for the next chapter of, "As The Stomach Turns".
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.
@ Scooter dog, I totally agree w/you. Ms.Jackson has already retained counsel to fight these slanderous attacks. More to come.....IMO the entire board including Ms.Washington needs to be replaced! Otherwise I suggest the state take over Willow Run Schools.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.
Not very smart airing your dirty laundry and making slanderous allegations in public,there willow run school board.Your opening yourself up for a big time lawsuit.Some things are best NOT said in public
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.
Let's get it over with and combine Willow Run, YPS and Lincoln into one school district for Ypsilanti. While we're at it, how about merging Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.
people who work for us are suppose to be honest.seems that's less and less the case.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.
How many supers' must this district hire before they get it right? Its been about 7 years since they had an honest super and she left for greener pastures... After the last super fleeced them one would think they would do due diligence to ensure their pick was honest fool me once, shame on the kids - fool us twice and shame on WRCS and its selection process
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 8:06 a.m.
Didn't the district THOROUGHLY check this woman's background before hiring her? This can't possibly be the first school district she has done this to. What's the feasibility and legality of hiring a private investigator to do an indepth background check on people being considered for these positions before they are offered the job? Something needs to be done because the money just isn't there to continue doing "business as usual", the school districts just can't afford it, and the students are the ones who suffer in the long run.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 7:56 a.m.
Hey, David Jesse, how about doing a story about the wonderful students at Willow Run High School.Ask them how it,s going.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.
Bravo! THIS is a fresh start.... an honest appraisal of the unethical behaviors of anti-educators Hope-Jackson and Hicks as well the appropriate expectations of their removal. Thank you, Sheri Washington, WRHS alumna, for pursuing justice. The strength of language is not exaggerated. I witnessed the perfidy of Hope-Jackson and Hicks; hence, made my departure, unable to work in good conscience under such brutish "leadership". Hopefully this measure will prevent these two from their modus operandi of ravaging yet another school district with such a shocking disregard for education, children and moral values. Thank you, WRCS Board of Education.... you are awake and involved in necessary and healthy change. Our children deserve no less.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 7:03 a.m.
It's about time!
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.
It's called Brain Drain.
Fri, Mar 26, 2010 : 6:36 a.m.
Ugh. Willow Run needs a state takeover of the school system before it falls as deep as the Detroit crisis.